{You Pick Six} An Interview with Author: Crystal King

Many years ago, I worked at a software company with Crystal King. I didn’t really see her face to face much, because we both worked from home sometimes and worked in different departments. But I do remember seeing her on lots of emails! So it’s quite fitting that we reconnected on LinkedIn.

Then recently, I noticed that Crystal posted about writing her latest novel. Latest?! Call me impressed!

When I read further about her novel, The Chef’s Secret, I noticed that it was inspired by a real Roman cookbook from the 16th century, written by one of the first celebrity chefs – if not the first. I was intrigued and naturally wondered about her experiences with food.

By the way, if you’re looking for a late Mother’s Day gift and your mom is into food, Rome and history, this novel would be a great gift for her! Or maybe you might just want to get it for yourself.

Also, as a special gift for readers of this blog, you can request a free digital companion cookbook that contains 27 recipes!

Now let’s learn a bit more about Crystal and resume this ongoing interview series with the 23rd interview of You Pick Six.

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What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
My favorite recipe is tortellini soup. I make it all the time in the winter. It’s super simple. Slice up a chicken or pork sausage and sauté it in the bottom of a saucepan. I will deglaze with a little bourbon, then add in enough good broth (this varies depending on what we’ve got at home…we make broth from duck, pheasant, chicken and more) for the two of us. I usually throw in chopped carrots, sometimes potatoes, and a slew of herbs of my fancy that day. Thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper, paprika, turmeric. Add the fresh tortellini after the carrots have cooked, then when they are floating to the top, I add frozen peas and cook for another minute or so. When served, I add grated Parmesan or Romano on top. Super fast, super easy and delicious.

I also like making Parthian chicken,which is a holdover from my novel, Feast of Sorrow. It’s a 2,000 year old recipe and one of our favorite dishes for the dinner table.

What is a favorite quote?
The controversial NYT literary critic Anatole Broyard once said, “Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city.”   Oh, Rome, where my heart is.

What is a favorite childhood food memory?
When I was young, my mom would occasionally travel to some convention for whatever thing she was selling, whether it was Princess House or Avon. My father would cook and that was always an adventure. I remember one breakfast where we had the big tabletop casserole/griddle out and he made one monster pancake, and the three of us kids all had to help him flip it. We loved when he did stuff like that with us when mom was gone.

What is the best meal you ever had and where was it?
This is hard! There are two that stand out, for very different reasons. é by José Andrés comes first to mind. My husband and I went for one of my milestone birthdays, shortly after it opened (it’s a secret restaurant behind Jaleo in Vegas), when it was nearly impossible to get in. Everything about that meal was amazing, from the presentation, to the show the waiters did, to every delicious, surprising morsel of food.

And last year, I was in Caprarola, Italy, visiting the Farnese palazzo to research my third novel. We stopped in a little spot, Trattoria del Ciminio, that was pretty much empty.  When the lunch crowd did start to filter in, we were the only tourists. The salumi was hyper local from deer and wild boar. I had a goose tortelloni that was to die for, and a smoked duck carpaccio that was pure heaven. I’ve not had anything else like it in my travels. My husband and I keep talking about that place.

What is a favorite cookbook?
Another hard one! But right now, my big soft spot is for [L’Opera] the cookbook that my main character, Bartolomeo Scappi, published in 1570, to great acclaim. It is the inspiration for my novel, The Chef’s Secret.  There are over a thousand recipes in its pages, as well as woodcuts that show you what a papal kitchen was like back in the Renaissance. The recipes are fascinating and many of them still delicious to palates today.

Tell me about your book.
The Chef’s Secret is about Renaissance celebrity chef, Bartolomeo Scappi. Scappi was the private chef to four Popes and the author of one of history’s best-selling cookbooks. We don’t know much about his life, or the life of his apprentice and nephew, Giovanni. Which meant that I was able to turn on my imagination and create lives that perhaps they might have lived.  In my story, Giovanni is on a quest to find out the truth about his uncle and the fifty-year love affair that the chef hid from the world.  It’s a book full of food and feasting, a bevy of historical figures, and of Rome and Venice during a time rather different than we know today. It’s a mystery and a double love story. It was great fun to write, and to sample the recipes from the Scappi cookbook as I plotted it all out!

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Thank you so much for participating Crystal!

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Photos: Provided by Crystal King.

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Co-Founder of Ompractice: Sam Tackeff

Besides blogging, tweeting is my next favorite way to use social media. To me, Twitter feels like the pulse of the world.

It’s also a great way to interact with smart and interesting people – especially about food and politics. Recently I was tweeting with Sam Tackeff about baking cookies.

Then I took a closer look at her Twitter profile and noticed that yoga and food are two of her big interests. Just like mine! Check out her Instagram for some delicious looking meals!

Not only does Sam have a food blog called The Second Lunch, but she’s a co-founder of Ompractice, a platform for live interactive yoga and meditation where the teacher can see you.

Her company seems to solve a problem with online yoga classes. One of the major benefits of attending a class in person is that the instructor can give you feedback. From what I know, most online classes don’t have interaction between the teacher and student. So Ompractice is very different.

I haven’t tried the class yet, but Sam is offering us a free class to try. Just email her directly (sam@ompractice.com) and she’ll help you choose your first one! I definitely plan to try it. Hopefully very soon!

Until then, let’s learn a bit more about Sam and resume this ongoing interview series with the 22nd interview of You Pick Six.

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How did food become an important part of your life?
It all starts with food, doesn’t it?

I consider myself so lucky to have been raised in a family deeply and passionately in love with food, hailing from many corners of the world. As a child, I grew up in New Hampshire, but spent many summers traveling to my mom’s side of the family in Istanbul, Turkey – one of the best food cities in the world.

My parents definitely prioritized food – we traveled and ate in so many amazing places, and it wasn’t unusual for us to hop in the car and drive four hours into New York for a Zabar’s run, or up to Montreal for a platter of smoked meat at Schwartz’s. So many of my childhood memories are sitting around a table with family, eating something delicious.

I’m also lucky to have parents who are great cooks, who always let us into the kitchen, and gave us jobs to do. There was always a real variety of cuisines even on weeknights. My mom cooks traditional Turkish dishes, lots of seafood. My dad cooks Ashkenazi Jewish food that he grew up with, traditional Chinese cuisine, weekend brunch, and is an improvisational wizard. He can taste a sauce once… and re-create it. (I aspire to this kind of palate!)

What is a favorite cookbook?
This is like having me choose a favorite child, so I’m going to just dive in here and share more than one with you.

In a former life, I used to be the manager of an incredible cookbook store, Omnivore Books on Food, in San Francisco. I started the beginning of a collection that swelled to over a thousand cookbooks, at one point crossed the country in 44 boxes of media mail, and since then has been culled, slightly.

I have so many deep loves – but some of the authors I go back to read over and over again are Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver, Patience Gray (Honey from a Weed), Andrea Nguyen, Paula Wolfert, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, and Dorie Greenspan to name a few.

At the moment, I’m loving three new-ish books: Samin Nosrat’s ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ – and her accompanying Netflix series! Anita Lo’s ‘Solo’ – I’m making the red cooked duck for dinner tonight, and have been making her kale and date salad on overdrive. The third book is Alison Roman’s Dining In – I’ve cooked more than half a dozen recipes from this book in the past month with incredible success – some of the best things I’ve eaten in the past year, for sure. (And I don’t often actually cook from my cookbooks – I just couldn’t resist these recipes!)

Okay, and a quick shout-out – I’m forever proud of the dishes I washed and recipes I tested in my friend Karen Solomon’s book, Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It! Nothing like seeing your name in print in a cookbook! One day maybe I’ll actually sit down to write one of my own.

Tell me about what you’re working on now.
Yes! I’m excited to talk about this because in addition to food, we share a love of yoga!

A few years ago, I started working on a passion project with friends, and most luckily, it’s turned into a real thriving start-up: the company is called Ompractice –  we have live online yoga and meditation classes where a teacher actually sees you.

We started Ompractice because we wanted to create a welcoming and inclusive platform to give everyone the opportunity to get the benefits of yoga and mindfulness – not just those who look a certain way or have extra time and money to spend.

We have more than 25 incredible teachers now – who get to do more of what they love.

So much of my work is done behind the scenes, building technology, thinking up strategy – but one of the greatest parts of building this company is dropping in on classes myself each week – our teachers are awesome, and it’s such a pleasure getting to meet the students who come from all over the country – we even have people taking classes across the world!

At the end of the day, it’s spreading the word one person at a time!

What brings you peace every day?
I’m always working on this! Before starting Ompractice, I spent much of the past ten years studying all different types of wellness, fitness, nutrition, and self care practices. While spending my days working at startups, I spent nights studying to become a health coach, certified personal trainer, group trainer, and RRCA certified running coach –– all, I think, in a quest to bring myself peace as I started helping others do the same.

During my time working at Runkeeper, the running app, I really started working with women in particular on self care, eventually building an online program and course on the topic that I’ve run many times, each time, helping myself find and develop my own self care habits.

These are the few things in particular that help bring me peace on a daily basis:

Running. I have a daily running streak that I’ve kept up for over a year now. I run at least a mile – not for fitness particularly, but for the benefits it brings to my brain. Peace and ease.

Cooking. Chopping. Peeling. Deep breaths of the spice mixes hitting the hot pan. I’m happiest and calmest when I’m cooking something.

Meditation. Another daily practice that I’d be lost without. I started on Headspace doing a daily practice four years ago, have kept it up, and since built Ompractice to offer guided meditation as I’ve deepened my practice over the years. (Right now we’re working on building programming to get into the habit of meditation, and I’m really excited for us to roll it out!)

Spending time with my Frenchie, Bertram. This pup brings me so much joy!

Gratitude work. Another daily practice that I’d be lost without. Focusing on the positive aspects of my day – big and small – helps me to appreciate what I have, and is a great way to encourage myself to do more of the good things! I’ve been re-capping my weeks in 2019 on my blog as well.

Reading. Brings me peace when done daily, in quantity. I read so many different kinds of books! Business, wellness, biographies, and YA fantasy are on my regular rotation. It’s also important to me to prioritize reading POC and women’s voices as much as I can.

What is a favorite dessert?
Turks are known for their amazing desserts. While baklava might be the usual choice, my favorite desserts are actually the amazing variety of Turkish puddings. My favorites are Kazandibi, a thick set milk pudding with a beautifully browned top, a Turkish rice pudding called Sütlaç, and fresh Halva made from tahini. I was lucky enough to spend time in Istanbul in April, and ate my way through 10 days of dessert. I walked absolutely everywhere, so everything felt balanced out in the end.

My nighttime quick pick is cannoli without the shell: I put some whole milk ricotta (I use Calabro) in a bowl, add mini chocolate chips, a teaspoonful of sugar, a capful of Disaronno Amaretto, and top with some orange zest. It’s perfect.

What is a favorite snack?
I’m always on the quest for an exciting snack. It really depends on whether I’m in a sweet or savory mood. I lean towards salt and umami.

For savory: a staple around here is a can of sardines with avocado, tomato, and some fig balsamic vinaigrette. (I crack open a tin of sardines a few times a week, and the dog gets the sardine oil on his kibble and is equally excited as I am.)

For sweet? Probably a spoonful of Soom’s chocolate tahini. It’s divine.

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Thank you so much for participating Sam! And thank you for the opportunity for me and my readers to have a free first class with Ompractice!

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Photos: Provided by Sam Tackeff.

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Cookbook Author: Tracey Medeiros

Tracey Medeiros Author of The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook

One of the things that I love most about certain books, movies and television shows is when I become immersed in a place. I’m suddenly lingering in a local coffee shop or enjoying the breeze as I ride a bike around the town square.

If you’re a fan of Scandal, at the beginning, the show conjured up their idea of Vermont. It was serenity, the forest and making jam. It was beautiful.

When I drove to Montreal several years ago, I remember driving through parts of Vermont that were so breathtaking I wanted to stop and stay there.

Now I haven’t read through each page of The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook, but what I’ve read reminds me that I need to make visiting Vermont a priority. Not only is it a cookbook, but it’s a travel guide. The author, Tracey Medeiros, has done a fantastic job of weaving each recipe together with a profile of a local place.

Coincidentally, over the last several months I started buying Butternut Mountain Farm Maple Syrup. I was attracted to the 100% pure Vermont maple syrup label. I love supporting local business and consider the whole New England region as local. This syrup is my favorite right now and it was such a treat seeing Butternut Mountain Farm mentioned in the book! Plus, she paired it with a Maple Milkshake recipe. Yum! I cannot wait to try it!

Can you tell that I’m already a fan of this cookbook? But it’s not just me! The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook is a finalist for a Readable Feast award in the Socially Conscious category as well as a candidate for their People’s Choice Award.

Since I was intrigued by the concept of this cookbook, I was interested to learn more about the author behind it. Let’s picture ourselves sitting in a cafe somewhere in Vermont with Tracey and resume this ongoing series with the 21st interview of You Pick Six.

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What is your favorite quote?
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless” – Mother Teresa

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the love and passion for my work and the joy it brings me. I am driven by the pleasure of food and the art of cooking – it feeds my creativity. The talented contributors I feature in my books are also a source of inspiration for me.

What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be humble, work hard, and always take pride in your work – thanks Mom!

What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
Roast chicken – it’s the ultimate comfort food. I love using the leftover chicken meat in soups, salads, enchiladas and pasta dishes. Nothing goes to waste, I use the chicken carcass and bones to make a homemade chicken stock.

The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook

How did food become an important part of your life?
I have always loved everything that is food related, even as a child I liked to cook. My dream was to one day study the art of food and its preparation. To this end, I enrolled at Johnson and Wales University where, after graduation, I quickly became interested in the sustainability movement. My love of farmers’ markets and roadside food stands led to the birth of my first cookbook, Dishing Up Vermont. I am also the author of The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook and co-author of The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook. The fall of 2017 saw the release of my fourth book, The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook. Each of my books seem to pave the way for my next literary adventure.

Tell me about your book.
The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook focuses on the non-GMO and organic elements of the food system throughout the entire state of Vermont. The book’s emphasis is on food transparency – “Know What is in Your Food,” simplifying the complexity of the movement with recipes that include ingredients which do not contain genetically modified organisms. All of the farm contributors are certified organic, its food producers are either certified organic, non-GMO, or both. Each of the chefs and restaurants in the cookbook feature organic and non-GMO on their menus. Accompanying each contributor’s recipe(s) is a profile which puts a face on these folks who work so hard to positively impact Vermont’s agricultural landscape.

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Thank you so much for participating Tracey!

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Photos: Provided by Tracey Medeiros.

Disclosure: Tracey provided me with a free copy of her cookbook The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook. Thank you Tracey!

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Drink Blogger: Claudiane Philippe

Serendipity is a favorite word and a most welcomed occurrence. It’s also how I learned about Claudiane Philippe.

While scrolling through posts in the Brandeis Alumni of Color Network Facebook Page, I saw a Boston Globe article about her.  She is not only a fellow Brandeis University graduate, but she is a much sought after blogger with 11,500 followers on Instagram. Well, “Cheers” to you Claudiane!

Because her nails always look beautiful and are front and center in photos of featured cocktails, her blog is called Nail The Cocktail. How cool is that?!

If you’re interested in finding the best cocktails in the Boston area and beyond, check out her blog where she goes into more detail about the drinks that she’s posted on Instagram.

So let’s stir things up and learn a bit more about Claudiane and resume this ongoing series with the 20th interview of You Pick Six.

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What is a favorite dessert?
My favorite dessert of all time is tiramisu. I’m not a great baker and I don’t attempt to bake often, however I found a “fool proof” recipe for tiramisu online once and it came out great! Any time I see it on the menu somewhere, I order it without second guessing.

What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
Some of the best advice I have ever received was the phrase: if you’re not willing to do something for free at first you don’t truly love it. This quote resonated with me because so many millennials won’t take an opportunity unless there is a paycheck attached to it. If something is a true passion of yours, starting off by taking good opportunities is a way to network and prove yourself until you land an opportunity to get paid for what you love. Life is about working towards goals and dreams. Having patience is key.

What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
When it comes to cocktails my favorite recipe to make at home is a Mule. I love trying new spirits with the tradition recipe. I use lime juice, ginger beer, and whatever liquor I’m in the mood for that day. Right now I’m feeling spicy tequilas so I’ve been adding that to my Mules regularly. However, can never go wrong with a traditional Moscow Mule which uses vodka. Usually I pair my Mule with some sort of fish like salmon for dinner.

What is a favorite childhood food memory?
My dad used to always get me a Quarter Pounder with cheese and no pickles at McDonald’s all the time. It was my favorite thing to eat as a kid. I haven’t had one in years now.

What are some things that you can’t leave the house without?
Nowadays, I can’t leave the house without my camera. I’m always on the go and as a cocktail and lifestyle blogger, you never know when you’ll get the opportunity to snap an awesome moment to keep forever or share with an audience online. I also am attached at the hip with my cell phone, but who isn’t these these days.

Tell me about what you’re working on now.
Right now I am working on expanding my cocktail blog to a wider audience. I’m primarily based in Boston but I would love to expand to NYC by the end of this year. If I could have my blog recognized nationally by by 2022 I would be elated! I’ve been hosting and curating events around Boston to give young people something to do in the city that’s both fun and responsible, all while getting my name out there.

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Thank you so much for participating Claudiane!

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Photos: Provided by Claudiane Philippe.

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Food Entrepreneur & Author: Joanne Chang

Photo Credit: Colin Clark

Can I just say it? Joanne Chang is an icon.

Back in 2000, she brought Boston the first Flour Bakery + Cafe and our lives are all better for it. Lucky for us, she raised Boston’s food game to another level. I was in the elevator going to work a few months ago. There were three guys standing behind me and they couldn’t stop raving about Flour.

I remember visiting the first location on Washington Street and being so excited! Oh the sweetness!

For all the tourists in town for the Boston Marathon on Monday, you’re doing yourself and those that love you a serious disservice if you don’t visit Flour at least once. So visit and eat! Especially if you’re one of the runners, because you can handle the calories!

There are seven locations around the city, so you should be able to find one fairly close to you. I’ve visited three locations, so I still have some to try. The apple snacking spice cake is one of my favorite things!

By the way, Joanne is an avid runner and ran the Boston Marathon every year between 1991 and 2006. She also co-founded the restaurant Myers + Chang with her husband, Christopher Myers. The food there is divine as well.

A prolific cookbook author and James Beard award winner for Outstanding Baker — Joanne’s accomplishments are many. Flour’s tagline “make life sweeter … eat dessert first!” is pure joy and one of my goals when I was a kid. That’s the feeling you’ll get when you’re eating one of her desserts.

And on that sweet note, let’s learn a little bit more about Joanne and resume this ongoing series with the 19th interview of You Pick Six.

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What is a favorite snack?
The ends of the banana bread that get trimmed off before we serve them to guests. The staff save me these in a little container and I go from location to location checking in and snacking on these treats. I probably eat about a loaf’s worth of trimmings each day.

What brings you peace every day?
Coming home and spending time with Christopher. I’m incredibly lucky to have someone who inspires me, makes me laugh, believes in me, guides me, and reminds me of what is important – US – every day.

Photo: Flour’s delicious banana bread!

What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
From my parents who taught me that as long as you’ve tried your best you have nothing to regret. I used to berate myself as a kid for getting a bad grade and Mom and Dad would just ask me, Did you try your best? And I would say, Yes. And they would say, Then we are proud of you. As long as you try your best you have nothing to be ashamed of. I live by that!

What is a favorite quote?
“Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

What are some things that you can’t leave the house without?
I can’t leave the house without snacks- raisins in my pocket or a few pieces of toast or some almonds or an apple. I live in fear of being trapped somewhere with nothing to eat so I make sure I have food on me at all times.

Tell me about what you’re working on now.
I am knee deep in writing my next cookbook Pastry Love! It’s a compilation of all of my favorite recipes new and old. I’m baking up a storm every day and it’s been a blast. I’m in the candy chapter now- making english toffee and caramels and eating way too much sweets and loving every second of it. 🙂

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Thank you so much for participating Joanne!

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Photos: Provided by Joanne Chang.